The Blues legend faced his first serious test as a manager and opted to sell one of his most experienced players
Frank Lampard says that the shock £8 million ($10m) sale of David Luiz to Arsenal wasn’t down to player power and that he didn’t “flex his muscles”.
The Premier League transfer window closed on Thursday and Luiz stole the headlines as he stunned the football world moving from one London club to another.
The 32-year-old’s move has generated speculation around a possible falling out between the player and manager, which Lampard has denied.
Luiz was known to be both an influential and popular figure in the Blues dressing room, but new Blues boss Lampard denies that selling him has anything to do with a power play.
“I would never have gone out to make any form of a mark,” Lampard told reporters. “I think it would have been naive to try to flex my muscles or my power. I don’t need to do that. I just play it as I see it, daily.
“I watch how the players train, I watch how the players react in the dressing room, how the spirit is. And then I have to make decisions. And I have to try and create a squad that is in the image of what I want.
“And I wasn’t saying David wasn’t part of that, but I have to make lots of decisions every day and they are not all about trying to show power, they are just trying to do it my way because the last thing I want to do is look back on these times and go, ‘I wish I had done that differently and I didn’t quite do it’.
“These are decisions that I make daily. So, if it looks like that from the outside, it certainly wasn’t how I did it. It was purely football decisions on both sides. Not just the way I was thinking, but the way David was thinking. And at 32, I was that 32-year-old. I left here at 35-ish.
“It was slightly different, for me, but I wanted honesty and respect. It went both ways. We are also big characters, so when we do talk, then it is serious. We don’t beat around the bush, we got to the point pretty quickly and that was it.
“We have four centre-halves. Three full internationals, one is an under-21 international who I worked with last year. We have other players in defensive areas.
“It is an area of the pitch where I am very interested to see players stand up and play. To make that shirt their own as everyone has to in every position. I am very comfortable with the squad we have got and that’s not a slant on David at all. I know all of David’s qualities. He has got great qualities as a footballer and as a person. It is just a decision we came to.”
Luiz featured heavily in pre-season but he was left on the bench after Chelsea’s penultimate match ahead of the new campaign where they beat RB Salzburg 5-3 in Austria.
Chelsea now prepare to face Manchester United on Sunday without Luiz, who was one of just three players at the club to have played alongside Lampard in west London.
Fikayo Tomori is being promoted and is in line for a new deal after Luiz’s departure. He will compete with Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger for a central defender spot this season.
Lampard has dismissed claims that Luiz wanted to be untouchable, as he further explained how two former team-mates can part ways in the final hours of deadline day.
“I’m never surprised by players,” he added. “He didn’t want to be untouchable, and I should make that clear. I’m never surprised by players. The huge difference between being a player and a manager is that, as a player, you can be very selfish and not worry about anyone else too much.
“When you are a manager, your responsibility is 25 players and more, everyone around the building. So never expect a conversation to go the way you think it might go. Also, when you are dealing with top-level sportspeople, they are driven and I accept that. We are all driven in different ways.
“I used to hate being subbed, I used to hate being dropped. I was terrible. I wouldn’t want to manage myself in certain ways! But as a manager, you have to understand that you have to have these conversations and so I’m never surprised by what any player does, they just try to get the best out of the situations for the club you are working for.”
Lampard faces Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday and he may see some similarities between him and his opposite number as they both seek success managing a club where they are considered legends.
Both are particularly keen on using academy products and youth players, while they have both opted primarily for the 4-2-3-1 system in pre-season. Lampard met Solksjaer for the first time on Wednesday at a Premier League managers’ meeting and gave his verdict on his rival.
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“Well, I enjoyed watching Ole,” Lampard concluded. “First of all, he seems like a very likeable man, I met him in the week at the manager’s meeting and he carried on that way. We played against each other but we wouldn’t have had too many social moments.
“I like to see someone who is obviously a legend at the club but also a people person. I like that. Even though I’m not at Manchester United, I like seeing the uplift he got as a manager when he went in. And he did. I watched their performances in Paris and others where they were fantastic.
“It was nice to see as a young manager, a young aspiring manager myself, for someone to come in and do as well as he has done. Now it’s a big test. The expectations don’t go anywhere for any of us, they are probably higher for us and that’s what we have to work with all of the time.”